The Price of Meat

Meatpacking plants have become the new front where workers are fighting management over Covid-19 risk. But unlike medical professionals, who in theory can be hazmat suited up so as to greatly reduce exposure to contagion but aren’t due to the lack of PPE, you can rest assured that level of safety precaution will never happen in slaughterhouses because the pricing and margins of meat production won’t allow for its.

The stakes for meat are high not simply due to the concentration of production, that that loss of not all that many plants has crippled on pork and beef supplies, with pork down by 1/4 and beef off by over 10%. It also results from the fact that the number of cases in these plants is so high that they’ve made their communities into hot spots. So even if the plants were kept open, people in the area would be put at even more health risk. That’s why, three weeks ago, Governor Kristi Noem pressed Smithfield Foods to halt in its ginormous Sioux Falls operation, which had over 200 positive cases. Since then, coronavirus has shuttered at least 15 more plants. Wholesalers are warning of meat shortages in some regions, while in other areas, grocers are engaging in rationing lite (limiting the number of meat purchases), so as to keep shelves stocked and prevent panic buying.

John Tyson of Tyson Foods appears to have goaded Trump into acting via a series of newspaper ads blaring that “The food supply chain is breaking.” Cynics wondered if that was just cover for jacking up prices and giving Tyson cover so as not to be accused of profiteering.

But it seems that the industry honchos really did want the meat plants back in service. Trump quickly issued an executive order, using the Defense Production Act to authorize the plants to reopen. However, the press appears to have gotten out over its skis. Trump’s order isn’t forcing meat processors back into operation:

However, the order does override state orders to suspend operations. And it gives the producers a big fat liability shield. From Mother Jones:

But here’s a theory. Already, 20 meatpacking and food-processing workers have died from COVID-19, and more than 5,000 have contracted the disease, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. What if workers and their families start suing, claiming that the companies’ practices made them sick? Already, one worker—at a Smithfield plant in Milan, Mo.—filed a lawsuit claiming management was not sufficiently protecting workers from the risk of COID-19, and demanding that it follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

A president invoking the Defense Production Act to require meatpacking firms to keep their plants running during outbreaks would provide a “solid basis” for shielding the firms from suits like this, said Jennifer Zwagerman, director of Drake University’s Agricultural Law Center. She noted that Walmart was recently sued for wrongful death by the family of a worker who died from COVID-19 complications.

And from Reason:

The big deal in the executive order and interpretations of it may be about meat processing plant liability for employee exposure. From [U.S. Solicitor of Labor Kate S.] O’Scannlain and [OSHA Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Loren] Sweatt’s statement:

Courts often consider compliance with OSHA standards and guidance as evidence in an employer’s favor in litigation. Where a meat, pork, or poultry processing employer operating pursuant to the President’s invocation of the DPA has demonstrated good faith attempts to comply with the Joint Meat Processing Guidance and is sued for alleged workplace exposures, the Department of Labor will consider a request to participate in that litigation in support of the employer’s compliance program. Likewise, the Department of Labor will consider similar requests by workers if their employer has not taken steps in good faith to follow the Joint Meat Processing Guidance.

Even CBS worked out that the worker safety bits were a headfake; relevant agencies merely issued guidance.

Mike Elk’s PayDay report seems to be the only outlet covering Covid-19 strikes; his map now shows 153. Yesterday, Nebraska meatpackers struck. From Elk’s account:

It’s unclear how Trump intends to use the Defense Production Act to force meat packing processing workers back into the assembly line.

Organized labor immediately denounced the move.

“We only wish that this administration cared as much about the lives of working people as it does about meat, pork, and poultry products. When poultry plants shut down, it’s for deep cleaning and to save workers’ lives,” said Stuart Applebaum, president of Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union. “If the administration had developed meaningful safety requirements early on as they should have and still must do, this would not even have become an issue.”…

Shortly after Trump announced his intention to issue his executive order, more than 50 meatpackers walked off the job after 48 co-workers tested positive for COVID-19 at Smithfield’s plant outside of Lincoln, Nebraska…

The Nebraska action follows a wildcat strike Monday night at Pilgrim’s Pride meatpacking plant in Cold Spring, Minn.

Another meatpacker facing coronavirus pushback in JBS. In Green Bay, 189 coronavirus cases have been linked to its facility there. Elk informs us that JBS is playing hardball:

At a JBS meatpacking plant in Greely, Colo., 5 workers have died of COVID-19 and at least 100 workers have tested positive for the virus.

However, now JBS is threatening to sue the UFCW because of the negative media attention that they have received.

From KUSA in Denver: 

JBS has sent a cease-and-desist letter to the union that represents its workers, arguing that it “has adopted a strategy of generating negative media attention and public opinion” to gain concessions from the company while it battles an outbreak of the novel coronavirus at its Greeley meatpacking plant.

They provided a copy of that letter to the 9NEWS by United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 on Tuesday, and a rebuttal from the union’s president, Kim Cordova.

“Unfortunately, your cease and desist letter, threatening to stifle our voice, and those of our members, as well as pursuing claims for unfounded, speculative, and unrecoverable damages is rife with numerous inaccuracies, suppositions, and erroneous conclusions won’t spend time rebutting in their entirety,” Cordova wrote.

Have no doubt that that’s also meant to deter the Green Bay workers from making noise.
Trump has threatened to use the National Guard to replace strikers; Elk reports that Democratic Governor Tom Wolfe has called in the National Guard to replace nurses who walked out of a nursing home to demand better safety protections after 19 residents died. I wonder how much appetite members of the National Guard would have for the backbreaking pace of meat processing plants.

Here’s a well argued take:

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts suggested yesterday that workers at meat packing facilities should face loss of unemployment benefits unless they returned to work. This follows on the heels of President Trump’s announcement that he would invoke the Defense Production Act to reopen closed plants in an effort to protect the nation’s food supply-chain. Plants, regardless of safety, will be opened and workers will be coerced with loss of UI benefits so that Americans can get their pork, chicken, and beef in a timely fashion.

Don’t get me wrong. I like meat as much, and probably more, than the next guy and will start getting nervous when these products aren’t in my local grocery store’s refrigerator case. But this one-two policy punch from the White House and Governor Ricketts has a few problems with it. These plants are out of operation not because workers have refused to do their jobs but because of serious COVID-19 outbreaks that forced their closure. There have been hundreds of cases of COVID-19 associated with these facilities and a number of deaths. The counties where the plants are located are becoming their own hot-spots in the unfolding disease crisis. Cramped working conditions and hard physical labor seem to lend themselves to efficient viral transmission.

There’s an even darker side to the situation, though. Somewhere between 30 and 50 percent of the meat-packing workforce is made up of undocumented workers from Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador as well as immigrants from East African nations. As Smithfield Foods’ statement on the Sioux Falls outbreak indelicately put it, the living conditions of these immigrants are “different than they are with your traditional American family.” Get it? They are in overcrowded houses with inadequate sanitation. “They” aren’t like “us”. Since many — perhaps a majority — of them lack legal status, they are unable to defend themselves against exploitative or coercive labor practices. As recently as last August, ICE agents were rounding them up by the hundreds for deportation.

We need to make up our minds on a number of issues. On the one hand, we shower praise on “essential workers” in hospitals, grocery stores, sanitation and other occupations. On the other, we engage in acts of economic coercion with vulnerable populations who do some of the dirtiest, most difficult, and most dangerous work around. We build a fence along our southern border to keep out illegal immigrants but then seek to force those who are already here to do jobs American citizens simply will not do.

Why so coy about the source? It’s from Brent Orrell….at the American Enterprise Institute. That American Enterprise Institute. Orrell, at one of the bastions of “free market” ideology, gives a more straightforward statement in support of meatpacking plant workers than I have yet to see from any Democrat.

And while the Orrell does not support strikes, do you seriously think Team Dem would? The press has barely taken note of them. Even Labor Notes has Covid-19 entries only on medical worker and teacher actions (well, and library stafers too).

In other words, the abandonment of workers is so complete that some conservatives are more willing (even if selectively) to stand up for laborers, recognizing the necessity and arduousness of their jobs, than “liberals” or the Vichy Left, whose silence is deafening.

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  1. fresno dan

    There’s an even darker side to the situation, though. Somewhere between 30 and 50 percent of the meat-packing workforce is made up of undocumented workers from Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador as well as immigrants from East African nations. As Smithfield Foods’ statement on the Sioux Falls outbreak indelicately put it, the living conditions of these immigrants are “different than they are with your traditional American family.” Get it? They are in overcrowded houses with inadequate sanitation. “They” aren’t like “us”. Since many — perhaps a majority — of them lack legal status, they are unable to defend themselves against exploitative or coercive labor practices. As recently as last August, ICE agents were rounding them up by the hundreds for deportation.

    We need to make up our minds on a number of issues. On the one hand, we shower praise on “essential workers” in hospitals, grocery stores, sanitation and other occupations. On the other, we engage in acts of economic coercion with vulnerable populations who do some of the dirtiest, most difficult, and most dangerous work around.
    You can outsource to destroy unions and labor representation, or you can ignore immigration law. It isn’t JUST that immigration laws are ignored – its part and parcel of ignoring health and safety laws as well. Even local housing codes about the number of non-family members that can inhabit a domicile are non-enforced.

    1. Carolinian

      the living conditions of these immigrants are “different

      I don’t know if that’s true or not although that was one of the factors some have cited for the heavy NYC covid death toll in Queens and the Bronx. At any rate if you broaden the picture to industrial jobs in general it’s unclear what the companies are supposed to do other than issue some masks and sanitizer. It’s quite likely that workers in jobs like meat packing and at Amazon are using covid as an excuse to initiate strike actions that will gain more public support and fair enough since their jobs were already pretty dreadful before the disease.

      However I do think the “risking their lives” meme is a bit over the top given that given that factory workers in general tend to be younger and much less in danger from the virus. Where I live the 10,000 worker BMW plant has announced that it will restart on May 4. Will the workers be demanding hazard pay? I doubt it. Should they? Perhaps that’s for lawyers to decide. But this whole question of covid legal liability adds to the general fog.

      1. False Solace

        Just one of these outbreaks literally infected 900 people. And we already know COVID is deadlier the lower down the economic totem pole you go. No, it is not exaggerating to say these workers are risking their lives. They’re also risking the lives of everyone in their household. Don’t forget even young people can end up in the hospital for weeks.

        1. Carolinian

          I think you should back up your assertion with some actual statistics rather than “can” or “may.” I follow the daily disease reports in my state and the victims are overwhelmingly elderly with underlying conditions. About a quarter are in nursing homes. Of the roughly 200 who have died around a couple of dozen have been described as middle aged. None have been described as young and the initial reports out of China suggested that mortality for those in their 20s or 30s was very low indeed.

          Of course younger people do get sick but the question is how many and to what extent they are significantly under threat. As for whether they threaten others, that is a dilemma given that those who are vulnerable, those elderly, may have difficulty being isolated given the thousands of dollars per month it cost for managed care in a nursing home or assisted living. But that would be a dilemma whether those young people were working or not.

            1. Carolinian

              I don’t think that says what you think it says. They are comparing black and latino death rates to white death rates and saying that 18 to 49 in this group have a 2 1/2 greater chance of dying compared to white while 65 + have twice the chance. It is not saying that the younger group has greater chance of dying than the older, just that they have a greater (slightly) mismatch with the white statistics.

              Here are some more relevant statistics re what happened in New York and it includes the initial Chinese data.


              In NY the age, number of deaths and then the percentage. Among the 18 to 44 only 25 of the 309 who died had no known underlying conditions.

              0 – 17 years old 3 0.04%
              18 – 44 years old 309 4.5%
              45 – 64 years old 1,581 23.1%
              65 – 74 years old 1,683 24.6%
              75+ years old 3,263 47.7%

              So there are younger people dying but those percentages above are only of those tested positive for the disease. Cuomo himself said 14 percent of the population may have been infected without knowing which would move the chance of the young getting infected and then dying down considerably–we don’t really know how much because Cuomo’s figure like others are just preliminary studies.

              In SC about 5000 people are now known to have been infected out of 6 million and around 200 deaths overall.

              1. anon in so cal

                It is a direct quote:

                ““blacks and Latinos under the age of 65 had a higher share of fatalities than even older blacks and Latinos.

                The trend is particularly noticeable among those ages 18 to 49, The Times analysis found.””

                Here is another direct quote:

                “When accounting for each group’s percentage of the population, blacks and Latinos under the age of 65 had a higher share of fatalities than even older blacks and Latinos. The trend is particularly noticeable among those ages 18 to 49, The Times analysis found.”


                Separately, the serology tests, such as those administered in New York, may not be reliable:

                “Applying this knowledge to Thursday’s results from New York puts the picture in sharper focus. The release from the state doesn’t disclose the sensitivity of the test used, but it does note the specificity is between 93% and 100%, a “huge range,” Ashish Jha, head of Harvard’s Global Health Institute, noted on Twitter. If the test performed at the low end of that range, New York’s infection rate would be closer to 7% — half the figure Cuomo announced — and nearly one out of every two positives would have been a false positive, Jha said.

                “These tests don’t perform like people think they do and so there are a lot of crazy results,” Osterholm said. “You can often find more than half of the positives you do document are actually false positives.””


                1. Carolinian

                  ““blacks and Latinos under the age of 65 had a higher share of fatalities than even older blacks and Latinos.

                  You are misreading it–perhaps because of poor writing on the part of the reporter. What it is trying to say is: under the age of 65 had a higher share of fatalities than whites and even more so than older blacks and latinos had than whites.

                  The story is not about blacks and Latinos showing higher rates of death in younger people than in older people which would be news indeed given the vast disparities going the other way in all other populations. It’s about the disparity between blacks and Latinos versus Caucasian Californians.

                  And yes, the tests we have don’t seem to be altogether reliable and that applies to all tests including the swab tests which some say are misreading common cold viruses for corona. But there are other ways of judging including the experiences on ships like the Diamond Princess and here the case fatality rate was determined to be much lower than the initial Chinese study. Whatever the fatality rate is you certainly can’t base it on the number of those testing positive in the swab test because so few of our (and even those Asian?) populations have been tested.

                  In SC if we have 5000 positives and the ratio of positive to negative in the tests is about 10 to 1 then roughly 50,000 have been tested out of 6 million. Clearly this is no accurate snapshot at all of how widespread the disease is. Given that many experience no symptoms or are afraid of getting tested and isolated the overall infection rate is much greater.

              2. Oregoncharles

                A 17 year old girl just died in Texas. Black, as it happens. No prior conditions.

                A feature of this virus is the extraordinary range in severity, from a lot of people with no symptoms to organ failure and sudden death. Given that range, there are going to be exceptions to the rule – though admittedly not very many.

          1. Bsoder

            And I think you should make a simple statement of fact. Something like – People should be given the choice of work or be fired, and no employment. What workers think or base their decisions on has to be data you approve of. Further there is no other way of framing the issue that even if we know someone is going to sick or die, it still doesn’t matter. About right? Are you a larger investor in this business? Are you worried you won’t have meat? I’ll say this much I’m looking at all the data here at NIH and warn people that there are no easy take aways here. None. Be careful of drawing conclusions about what is safe. And sane.

            1. Carolinian

              What I think is that people should be given precise and accurate information about what the risks are (see my previous comment….still only approximate) and then make their own adult decisions about whether to return to work. Businesses should be required to supply them with protective gear or allow them to wear their own. If its a question of working vs unemployment then they can argue that the job conditions have changed and therefore they were involuntarily severed and are still eligible, assuming whatever unemployment powers that be agree (may involve lawyers).

              And no I have no financial interest in any of this.

    2. anon in so cal

      Excellent point about undocumented labor.

      It inherently links to another extremely important aspect of the U.S. meat supply and conditions in the meat packing plants and slaughterhouses, namely the inhumane abuse and horrific torture of animals–especially pigs—on U.S. factory farms, in transit to slaughterhouses, and at the slaughterhouses.

      Just one example: from factory farms in Utah, trucks transport pigs across Nevada and eastern California, to slaughterhouses in Los Angeles. This means that, in summer, the pigs are deprived of food and water for several days prior to transport, then crammed into giant trucks and transported across the scorching hot desert to slaughterhouses such as the Farmer John plant in Vernon, CA. Many of the pigs perish in transit, others arrive sick, suffering, massively dehydrated. Then the terrified animals are off-loaded, herded inside, brutally slaughtered.

      As long as there is a sufficient population of individuals desperate for wage labor of any kind, greedy and unscrupulous factory farms, and consumers who remain unaware of how these animals are treated, it will remain difficult to stop these horrific abuses.

      1. Oregoncharles

        A partial solution would be to license a LOT more slaughterhouses, better distributed so they’re close to the farms. The proposal I heard here, from (lefty) Rural Organizing Project, was for the state to do the licensing, with the goal of greatly shortening travel times. Another solution is mobile slaughter operations, also state licensed. This was to help family farms and ranches, as well as treat the animals more humanely.

        Further: your description is remarkably unappetizing. Just publicizing it would be an effective pressure tactic.

      2. norm de plume

        Serious question from a ‘furriner’

        How can people be employed sans documents? Aren’t valid ID and either citizenship or residency papers required for appointment? Is this even checked verbally? Surely there are rules around this which, if nothing else, you would think must be crucial if security against terrorism and crime was a genuine priority.

        No one in my country could waltz into a job without a work visa or permanent residency if they weren’t a citizen. Not in any above board operation which pays tax. Sure there is a cash economy (in the building trades etc) they might be able to access, but employers would think very hard indeed about off the books cash payments to anyone without valid ID and documentation.

        I am probably missing something here, but I have often wondered about these ‘undocumented immigrants’ I keep hearing about, thinking ‘they wouldn’t last long here’ and ‘how do they work without papers?’

        1. Bodok

          My understanding is that a documents are commonly forged, but typically using a fully documented person’s identity. This way, the IRS gets its cut and the employer can pretend nothing is amiss. Of course the IRS has (or had) programs to verify provided IDs, but they were poorly managed, rife with errors, and judiciously abandoned so the system could continue as is. The point is that the only ones meant to be accountable for the “crime” of working without documentation are the workers themselves, never the employers.

          Besides, don’t forget that meatpacking jobs used to be highly sought-after union jobs prior to the decimation of organized labor in the days of the Hormel P-9 strike. The idea that these are “jobs American citizens simply will not do” is a crock of shit. The entire system is functioning precisely as designed by the bosses.

    1. Oregoncharles

      The point is precisely that they are people we don’t usually pay much attention to, in jobs we don’t think of as heroic. Hopefully we’ll remember this experience.

  2. stefan

    I don’t know how many readers have ever been to a modern commercial slaughterhouse, but it goes something like this: the time between being stunned to being entirely cut up and packed in boxes is truly a matter of seconds, less than a minute, astonishingly fast. The cows know what is coming as they are shunted single file into a stall, zapped, and then hooked to fly thru the line. The young fellow who executes and hooks the cow is the highest paid worker on staff. I don’t know how many workers are undocumented these days, used to be 100%, but I doubt any are native English speakers. Staff work close together, side by side. Nothing, not a scrap, is wasted. All the blood, tissue, and fat rendered is flushed underfoot and used for something, animal feed I think. It is an astonishingly noisy, bloody, violent, fast-moving mechanical scene. Workers scream out loud sporadically to help the day go by.

  3. Wukchumni

    How about the price of frozen Mexican food?

    As of April 25, Ruiz Foods in Dinuba had 18 employees test positive for the novel coronavirus. The current number of effected employees could not be confirmed.

    According to its website, Ruiz Foods is America’s number one producer of frozen Mexican food. El Monterey® brand is the #1 selling frozen Mexican food in the United States. Ruiz Foods employs nearly 3,800 Team Members in four facilities located in the U.S.

  4. timbers

    If we call these meat packing workers “banks” or “investors” they’d be treated differently and be eligible to receive unlimited bailouts that would never have to be paid back.

  5. Howard

    My suggestion is to have the Trump family, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, and the CEOs of the major banks take a few shifts at a meat packing plant until this is all worked out.

    1. Louis Fyne

      Every meat eater should put in a few shifts.

      As much as some in pundit-land like to look down at gun-toting hunters—those deplorables are intellectually honest: to eat meat something has to die.

      All the greenwashing at Whole Foods or a Michelin restaurant doesn’t change the fact that even grass-fed “natural” meat is only one step above what one gets at McDonalda

      1. MLTPB

        Was it ‘a chicken in every backyard,’ way back then, here or other countries around the world too?

        Perhaps still today, in some places.

        The other day, someone mentioned the archaic Chinese logogram for ‘home,’ has a symbol for pig , under a roof sign.

        A pig in every backyard in that case.

          1. MLTPB

            In some parts, an honored guest is served a whole lamb, including eyeballs, and other parts. No waste there.

            (Can’t recall the exact movie).

          2. PlutoniumKun

            They provided entertainment too. My mother told me that grown up in inner Dublin, she and her sisters would sit up on the rear wall of the butchers shop behind my grandfathers shop to watch the pigs get slaughtered. When I asked why she said ‘we didn’t have TV in those days’.

      2. Math is Your Friend

        “As much as some in pundit-land like to look down at gun-toting hunters—those deplorables are intellectually honest: to eat meat something has to die.”

        That is precisely the reason I took up hunting.

        I had decided that if I was not willing to kill, butcher, and eat something, paying someone to do it for me was not only practical, but also a good way to avoid the moral clarity that should colour our approach to reality.

  6. a different chris

    >That’s why, three weeks ago, Governor Kristi Noem pressed Smithfield Foods to halt in its ginormous Sioux Falls operation

    Link? I can’t find any evidence of this. Her pushing to re-open it lately, plenty.

      1. a different chris

        I did try Google of course, “Kristi Noem Smithfield” was the search along with several other attempts, which resulted in the “plenty” aside.

        Thanks for the link. It’s not my fault Google sucks.

        1. ChrisPacific

          Try more words. “Kristi Noem pressed to halt Smithfield” gives a lot of hits, about evenly divided between the original request and the call to re-open a few weeks later.

          Google has some understanding of context and can parse out simple sentences and figure out what you’re asking. A short sentence describing what you’re looking for will often produce better results than a blanket query like a name.

          (Incidentally this is not true of Qwant, which is why I’ve reluctantly given up on it).

  7. divadab

    The slaves are in revolt! Quick – send for some more from whatever sh-thole country has surplus slaves!

    Not a good model for a sustainable food system.

  8. doug

    I do hope the national guard is ‘called upon’ to cut up cows.
    I want that to happen.

    Strike while you have the power.
    Power has a half life….

    1. JTMcPhee

      Then the troops in the National Guard are just forced into the same kind of slavery complained of here. No change. And these are people, individuals, not bots, deserving of the kind of respect that populists and faux liberals claim is due the “essential workers” that Nancy Pelosi praised as “bringing us the things we want.” Arrogant condescending charmer that she is, with her freezer full of special ice cream that essential workers brought to her.

  9. Shonde

    Few people today remember when meat packing jobs were strong union jobs and sought after for the high pay.

    My 1960’s era social stratification class as an undergrad gave as textbook examples jobs such as meat packing and brick laying that required high pay due to work conditions. No mention was made of course that unions had to fight for that pay and work conditions.

    1. clarky90

      My oldest son was the maintenance engineer in the boning room of a NZ Freezing works (slaughter house) . Strong Meat workers Union. He bought a little house for his wife and two kids. This was 5 years ago.

      He is now working in a flat bread factory.

    2. Bodok

      You can say that again. Race-warring shitstains like to whine about how immigrants take away jobs, but it’s capitalists who do it. They seek to create conditions that only the miserable will accept. Same as it ever was.

  10. Russ

    Why all the fuss about meat? There are millions of vegetarians and vegans who demonstrate every day that you don’t need it. Just adopt a plant based diet and the problem is solved.

    1. curious euro

      This is wrong. Stand before a mirror and open your mouth: your teeth show you clearly you need more than plants. Vitamin B12 doesn’t grow on trees, neither do essential aminoacids.

      You can go many years without B12, but sooner or later you cannot. Healthy diet = flora AND fauna.

      1. Louis Fyne

        throw in DHA. you can get DHA from algae, but vegetarians won’t get any in the normal course of a (western veg) diet unless they proactively take supplements

      2. Fox Blew

        Not to make too fine a point on things…but I am told that there is a fairly significant difference between vegetarians and vegans. I can’t speak on veganism as I don’t think I know any vegans (seriously, I can’t say I have personally met any, although I am sure there are millions around). I do know quite a few vegetarians, though. Quite a few of them eat eggs and cheese, drink milk, etc. They tell me they just don’t feel the need/desire (whether it be health, or for ethical reasons) to eat animals. I happen to be eating a bowl of cereal right now, and it says Vitamin B12 is included. Yes, I am drinking cow’s milk. curious euro: is Russ truly wrong that we cannot live healthily without eating animals?

        1. furies

          *I* cannot live healthily without eating animals.


          Not everyone has the same metabolism and caloric/vitamin needs.

          I personally cannot handle B vitamin supplements…they jack me up. (Iatrogenic brain damage via prescribed ‘medication’/poison).

          The meat I do eat, even tho I am a deplorable poor person, is locally grown/butchered and anything else I consume I research farm practices.
          The Cornucopia Institute very helpful for some of that…

          My ancestors ate meat! and I truly tried for years to eat only vegetable sourced food for some years, but my health suffered mightily. It took a nutritionist to tell me what was wrong.

          1. Fox Blew


            Thanks for this. I had not thought about this. Is this a common condition? I will make sure to talk to my vegetarian friends and mention this. Very few of them are overly-moralizing on my preference to eat meat…but some are to be sure. I had thought that eating eggs was sufficient, but as you mention rightly, not everyone is the same metabolically. Good reminder to me that I should do my own personal research before I decide to make a dietary change. Cheers!

        1. Synoia

          Different species from humans, different evolutionary path.

          Lion do not eat cereals or grass. Giraffes do not eat meat.

    2. Jonesy

      If you’re at all interested in strength training (and I do mean training — not “exercise” or cross-fit) or attenuating the loss of lean body mass as you age, you need sufficient quantities of leucine to trigger muscle protein synthesis. This means chicken, beef, or other meat. Plants, on the whole, have comparatively low amounts of aminos. You have to eat an absurd amount of them, to the point where it may be infeasible depending on your appetite and macronutrient targets. Your body also becomes less protein sensitive with age, requiring more of it to stimulate muscle growth.

      One of the best things you can do for your health is pick up a barbell and learn to squat, deadlift, and bench properly with progressive overloading. It wards off osteoporosis and keeps you functional as you get on in years. You’d be surprised how many musculoskeletal ailments it solves. I have yet to encounter a doctor who knows anything useful about nutrition or who recommends his patients run something like Starting Strength.

      1. BobWhite

        Sorry, but humans do not need to eat meat…
        The species historically ate what was most available to them, not being that picky.
        Maybe you want the life expectancy of a caveman?

        Just have a look at these people:
        Tell any one of them about the need to eat meat… or any of the many vegan professional athletes around the world.

        Personally, I have been a Vegan for 30 years, and only take vitamin B. I would compare my health, strength, and endurance to any meat eater, even 10 years younger.

    3. Math is Your Friend

      “millions of vegetarians and vegans who demonstrate every day that you don’t need it. Just adopt a plant based diet”

      This fallacy blythely ignores the fact that different people have different sets of genes which fit them for specific environments and diets. Evolution provides some groups of people with a very high probability of adult lactose tolerance (98% have it in some populations) while others have a very low probability (2% in some populations). A huge amount of this has to do what your ancestors ate for thousands of years.

      Similarly, some people are adapted for a nearly 100% meat diet and suffer numerous health problems when given a diet with significantly higher proportions of vegetable foods. Others are adapted to a vegetarian diet. This is a not a matter of choice, this is a matter of what genes you were born with.

      The fact that there are millions (actually probably hundreds of millions) of vegetarians is quite irrelevant, particularly when you consider that there are almost eight thousand million people on the planet… and some of the vegetarians have no other choice, for economic and other reasons… no matter how sub-optimal such a diet may be.

      As someone else has pointed out, there are some crucial dietary elements rarely found in plants. With something like a B12 deficiency, the decline in health is so gradual that many people may not ever realize they have a problem; if and when they do, they are unlikely to know why until relevant medical testing pinpoints the issue. Not all vegetarians are as healthy as they would be on a more diverse diet.

      Evolution shapes us more completely than we sometimes notice. Remember that humans and our ancestors have been eating meat continuously for a million years – longer than we have been our current species. It has left an imprint on our genes, our enzymes, our teeth, our nutritional needs. Ten thousand years is enough for significant genetic evolution with respect to diet…. so what do we expect from a million years?

    1. JTMcPhee

      Really? I don’t see karma biting the SOBs who are doing the exploiting in their capacious backsides.

      That sounds to me like what was beaten into me back in Presbyterian Sunday School — “Your reward will be great in heaven, so suffer now gladly.” And how it’s all predestined, anyway, and you can tell who God’s chosen 144,000 “Elect” are, because they have all the money and power…

      1. ambrit

        What always made me laugh about the 144,000 Elect of Calvinist Theology was that this number of “the Elect” was culled from everyone who ever lived and will live! That’s a very tiny fraction of the total sentient human population over time.
        To my mind, a more “meritocratic,” for some definition thereof, form of “salvation” would be the Catholic doctrine of plenery indulgences. The distribution of said benefices being tied to the exchange of money, it more perfectly fits the schema of the Protestant doctrine of Visible Grace.
        If there is a G-d, he, she, or it is either like Azathoth, sitting serenely in the centre of a maelstrom of chaos, or has a wicked sense of humour.

  11. Louis Fyne

    Chef Gordon Ramsay raised his own pigs for meat once on the show “F Word”. (shown in its entirety in one episode)

    truly humane slaughtering is expensive given the time and labor needed—-too expensive for regular consumption.

    but the expectation is that eating 8 oz of meat a daily is a given. dunno how to gently change that as society has it the limit when it comes to voluntarily eating less meat.

    any reduction in consumption will be price-driven, most likely by feed prices if/when climate change hits

    1. False Solace

      Yeah, that’s something a lot of people really don’t get. Rationing and shortages are going to become the new normal — by the end of this decade certainly. Boomers seem to be doing the worst at mentally adjusting. One expects they won’t have to deal with it as much.

      1. marieann

        Boomer here. I am quite knowledgeable about nutrition I know that the average adult can manage quite well with 4-6 ounces of protein per day…it doesn’t have to be meat. I mentally adjusted that information a long,long time ago and lived accordingly.

  12. lyman alpha blob

    Just reported an outbreak at our local meat plant yesterday, owned by Tyson –

    Making the news even worse, I hadn’t known this plant was owned by Tyson until this story came out. I quite enjoyed the chicken dinners produced there. The tasted better than most processed chicken and I’d thought until yesterday I was supporting a local business. Just when you think you can’t get any more cynical…

    On a related note, a musical interlude from another cynical man who knew a thing or two about the price of meat and how to deal with grifting charlatans – Cosmic Debris from Mr. Zappa.

    1. Louis Fyne

      poultry has become hyper-concentrated during the Bush-Obama years.

      in addition to Tyson and the other producers, throw in Costco, who decided to bypass the middleman and enter the poultry business

        1. curious euro

          From almost every standpoint, that would be worse and right now the result is worse than what nature manages to produce.

        2. ambrit

          I don’t think that Star Trek type matter assemblers are technically possible yet.
          The best I can think of on short notice is the decades old tech of tofu-burgers.
          Having helped kill and butcher various animals over the years, I observe that one can either adopt a “savage” semi-mystical reverence for the sacrifice the animal is making to feed us, or a full blown ‘Peasant Dominionist’ attitude. The danger with the latter is that one begins to apply such an objectifying attitude to everything in one’s surroundings, including people. Pathics of all sorts would have a field day.

          1. Massinissa

            I believe MLPTB is talking about vat-grown meat, which is a real thing now, though AFAIK not quite on the market yet. Though you are right, ‘3d-printing’ meat Star Trek style is not a thing and probably never will be, though I don’t think that’s what MLPTB meant.

            Heres the wikipedia page on cultured meat:

      1. Watt4Bob

        Actually Tyson benefited hugely through his support of Bill Clinton, going back to at least 1978.

        From The Fiscal Times;

        Under the guidance of an attorney representing Tyson Foods, Hillary Clinton made a $98,540 profit from a $1,000 initial investment in less than one year trading commodity futures. While $98,540 may not seem like much money relative to the Clinton family’s wealth today, it exceeded Bill and Hillary’s combined annual income at the time.


        It also was not much of an issue in 2008 — but that was before the federal government started bailing out banks and other big corporations. In the aftermath of TARP and other widely reported instances of crony capitalism, Clinton’s behavior back in 1978 and 1979 warrants further scrutiny.

        The factor that makes the cattle futures scandal relevant is that Hillary Clinton received her trading advice from Tyson Food’s outside counsel. Tyson was a major agricultural producer in Arkansas and had numerous issues that Attorney General and later Governor Bill Clinton could affect.


        The Times also reported, “During Mr. Clinton’s tenure in Arkansas, Tyson benefited from a variety of state actions, including $9 million in government loans, the placement of company executives on important state boards and favorable decisions on environmental issues.”

        Tyson appears to have obtained these results for what looks like a bribe delivered though Hillary Clinton’s commodities account. To quote the company’s former chairman: politics is “a series of unsentimental transactions between those who need votes and those who have money.”

        1. Janie

          Politics is “a series of unsentimental transactions between those who need votes and those who have money”.

          Never heard that quote, but it’s going to be my Carthage-must-be-distroyed phrase.

  13. freedomny

    Don’t really eat meat these days but do buy for my pup. I check out the situation in the one supermarket in town every couple of days. Meat section hasn’t been fully stocked for a while now – but….I’ve noticed it is getting even worse. Also, have several friends & relatives that have gotten extra freezers just to stock up on meat….

  14. Bruce F

    Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight” was published in 2013 but it seems to be made for these times.

    A political scientist goes undercover in a modern industrial slaughterhouse for this twenty-first-century update of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle

    This is an account of industrialized killing from a participant’s point of view. The author, political scientist Timothy Pachirat, was employed undercover for five months in a Great Plains slaughterhouse where 2,500 cattle were killed per day—one every twelve seconds. Working in the cooler as a liver hanger, in the chutes as a cattle driver, and on the kill floor as a food-safety quality-control worker, Pachirat experienced firsthand the realities of the work of killing in modern society. He uses those experiences to explore not only the slaughter industry but also how, as a society, we facilitate violent labor and hide away that which is too repugnant to contemplate.

  15. Ping

    If insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, then the crime-against-nature factory farming of animals for mass producing an unhealthy diet is classic example.

    The pattern of corona viruses have come from this practice,(swine flu, bird flu from crowded stressed immune compromised animals) our immunity to antibiotics, the absolute destruction of water supplies, mis-allocation of crops (it takes 40 tons of plant feed to make one ton of animal protein), plowing down the Amazon and vital forests for fast food industry burgers, our public range lands plundered for big ag cattle.. For what….so humans can clog their arteries or develop degenerative disease with over-consumption? And now we consign slave labor to poor living conditions without basic rights required for the process?

    Humans don’t need much meat and get along great with occasional chicken and fish or meatless with vegetables or nutritious ingredients.

  16. Synoia

    Why do meat packing plants exist? As a child in Norfolk in the UK, the local butcher received live animals, and sold meat.

    Slaughter on site. The meat was always fresh.

      1. Oregoncharles

        A number of initial cases were not associated with the market (sorry no link; it’s been mentioned here); it was probably a spreading center, not the source.

        I’ve also seen video of on-farm slaughter; arguably the safest, given good hygiene there and refrigerated transport.

    1. amfortas the hippie


      which translates into “we don’t want to compete”
      the refs for inspection were rewritten to make it next to impossible to have local slaughter capacity
      “free market” my shiny white a$$

      1. lyman alpha blob

        Yup. My family has had a slaughterhouse on their farm for decades. I believe that when my father was a kid my grandfather would sell some of the meat they produced, but now due to all the regulations they are not allowed to sell the meat anymore because their facility is not up to code. Personal consumption only.

        This, despite the fact that the meat is likely of much better quality than what you’d get in a supermarket via a factory farm as these cows spend the vast majority of their time in non-winter months cavorting outside in large green pastures. And, I’m guessing my family would probably face stiffer penalties for selling raw milk than they would if they were caught dealing opioids.

        1. amfortas the hippie

          in texas, i can sell meat and eggs on farm only…. but even that has some pretty onerous regs and we don’t bother trying to sell meat
          i deliver eggs and veggies
          so: black market farmer
          there’s wiggle room…. selling shares of a steer beforehand and such, to where it’s already the customer’s beef
          gray area

          1. wilroncanada

            We were grey market hobby farmers too, back in the 80s. We had friends to whom we “sold” some of out goats milk. We and they called it “investing in our goats.” And we kept the male kids until they were a certain age and then got a neighbour/friend to slaughter them for us. We gave him some of the chevon for his efforts I could kill off our chickens–for the stew pot–when they quit laying, but drew the line at goat slaughter.

      2. Watt4Bob

        I like to remind people that thousands of years ago butchers were priests, they knew the techniques that assured the meat was safe to eat.

        I’m winging it here, but there’s a quote that goes something like this;

        ” Thirty years a butcher, and never cut a gut.”

        So, for thousands of years the butcher was a priest, then he evolved into an abused worker, then he fought for his rights, and became a respected, and well-paid union worker, and then the neoliberals broke the unions and turned him back into an abused worker, and in many cases, an illegal with no rights in the work place.

        The results have been, among other things, that we end up with meat contaminated with e-coli, that will kill you if you don’t burn it to cinders, chicken that must be assumed to be contaminated with salmonella, and if it doesn’t kill you will make you wish you were dead, and of course, meat-cutting plants that are among the most dangerous work places in our country.

        When I was a kid, meat-cutters were respected, and meat wasn’t dangerous.

        Now meat-cutters live in fear of ICE raids if they complain about their working conditions, and the stuff their bosses sell us is guaranteed to make you sick if you don’t cook it until it’s dry and stiff.

  17. kareninca

    I don’t eat meat (for ethical reasons); neither does my husband. We haven’t in decades. My 95 year old father in law (who lives with us) eats small amounts of beef since he can’t seem to get his iron level up using pills, but he does not care if he never gets any more meat. But – I do care a great deal about poultry availability. My dog has inflammatory bowel disease, and the only food she can eat is made in a lab out of chicken feathers broken down to the peptide level. They are a slaughterhouse byproduct. We have tried a million other things (and she has seen the best dog gastroenterologist in the world, and we’ve consulted with the second and third best), and everything else makes her vomit blood. She’s been on this food for seven years now.

    There are so many supply chain issues that you would never think of unless you suddenly realized you were in deep trouble due to one breaking. Although to be honest I’ve been obsessed with this supply chain since we first started being at the end of it.

  18. sharonsj

    Here’s an update on what the Pennsylvania government is doing for us poor rural folks. I got a call from a friend who was told by his mother to check his food stamp account. It suddenly had hundreds of dollars in it. I checked; so did mine. We had no idea about this; saw nothing in the news, heard nothing on the radio. Since my food stamp allotment is usually $15 a month–for a single person–I ran to Wally World two days ago, thinking I can finally afford some red meat. One steak was $20. I could cut it into four pieces for four meals, but $5 for the protein alone for one meal is ridiculous, so I passed it up.

    Just got another phone call from said friend. His mother saw in the local newspaper that we have to spend ALL of the money before the next scheduled allotment, which is in about two weeks. My freezer is already full. So now I’m thinking I may end up with a hundred cans of soup and a metal pail to hold the dozens of boxes of pasta and egg noodles I’m forced to buy (to keep the mice and rats out). And I’m also thinking that, while I appreciate the money, my government is run by idiots.

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